Category Archives: Community

June 16, 2015

Community Dinners for 6 or 8

Just a few more days to sign up for this round of Dinners for 6 or 8. When you click on this link fill in a line on the spreadsheet with your information just like if you were at a conference and wanted to sign up at a booth.

We have good response so far. Please sign-up and join in the fun, there is no requirement to host a dinner (that’s just an option on the sheet). Contact Justin directly with any questions!

December 8, 2014

City Square Church is Moving (In January 2015)

Ucc Space

After a year of Sunday morning worship at The Bioscience High School, in downtown Phoenix, City Square is moving to a new space in the historic Coronado Neighborhood on January 4, 2015. We will remain at Bioscience for the remainder of 2014, including for our Christmas Eve service.  Beginning in January we will be worshipping regularly at the headquarters of The Southwest Conference of The United Church of Christ located at 917 E Sheridan, Phoenix, 85006, 1.7 miles northeast of Bioscience High School. The UCC made us a generous offer to use the space at a very low cost and our leadership team decided this was the right move for us. The new location will allow us to be in a new neighborhood and will make for an easier setup/breakdown process each week. There is a small parking area and ample street parking. Each Sunday there will also be ample signage so folks will easily know where to go. We’re thankful for the time we had a Bioscience, especially the extremely friendly maintenance staff who worked to make it a great space to be in every Sunday. We’re excited about this new opportunity and hope you will join us in helping us tell other about the move. We’ll see you in January, Coronado!

August 31, 2013

Church Sucks Because…

1002198_501313303283711_841508973_nA few weeks back Rob and I set up a table at TaylorFest, an ASU Downtown event meant to introduce incoming freshmen to the Downtown Phoenix community. There were restaurants, coffee shops, , music venues, and of course, churches represented there. We took a sign and some business cards and, in a last ditch effort to come up with something to differentiate us from other churches, a six foot chalkboard I made for use in worship.

See, when you’re trying hard not to be a soundbite church, it’s hard to say who you are when you only have a soundbite’s worth of time with a person. “We’re not like other churches,” or, “we’re relevant for a younger generation,” ring hollow to a generation of young people who have grown up hearing these mantras. On the other hand, “we’re a faith community striving to recognize where God is already at work in the creative, diverse, emerging community of Downtown Phoenix, honor that work among believers and non-believers alike, and invite all people within the community into an intentional spiritual journey to become more and more who God created us to be,” just doesn’t capture the imagination of college freshmen living away from home for the first time and rushing between hip vendors vying for their attention and tables giving out free goodies.

So, a chalk board. It allowed interaction, an opportunity for students to voice their own opinions, and a chance to move beyond words into creativity. We wrote, “God Looks Like…” at the top of the board and invited folk to draw, write, or express in anyway they cared to what God looked like to them. We got some good responses, but the folk who opted in were by and large folk who were already comfortable with “God” talk. “Jesus” was the first answer put on the board and, while I can appreciate that response, it most likely came from someone comfortable with church. Sandwiched between the new mega church in town and the campus evangelical group, we were talking to the same insiders churches always talk to at public events like this. We knew we had to do something different.

When the board was filled we took a pic, erased it, and replaced the prompt at the top with, “Church Sucks Because…”. We immediately sensed a shift. The mega church to our right wasn’t sure how to react. Students who had been avoiding the “church row” area of the event began taking notice, stopping to read comments or just pointing the prompt out to their friends. Some folk made a B-line for the chalk and began writing their thoughts while several others stood back, contemplating the question. When people asked us who we were or what this was all about we told them that we were a new faith community in town looking for honest conversation about church and how we might strip away the institutional barriers between our community and the work of Christ in the world. Some folk hated it and let us know. Some thanked us for our honesty, for allowing them a voice, and for creating space for a conversation they were having in their heads or with their friends that seemed to separate them from the churches they grew up in.

And that’s it. That’s the point. Some folk are happy with their church just the way it is and that’s great! We’re glad they’ve found a place that offers them the salvific love and grace of Jesus Christ. But some folk have not and they don’t know how to tell us that. Some folk desperately want a connection to God but are no longer willing to check their brains, or creativity, or discerning pallets, or friends at the door. Others have given up the notion that there might be a place in a church or even in the kin(g)dom of God for them because they can’t accept the teachings, are bored in worship, or feel that people are disingenuous in the churches they grew up in. These folk are our neighbors, our friends, our family, and they’re having these conversation whether we’re a part of them or not.

So let’s take away the stigma. Church doesn’t always suck, but sometimes it does and no one should be surprised by that. Let’s not make other people say it first. Let’s not let our institutions become such idols that we put their reverence above offering God’s grace and love to the world.

Because that would suck.

May 24, 2013

Introducing the Official City Square Church Website


One of the things folks have asked us most about is our website. For the past several months we’ve offered a beautifully designed landing page with links to all of our social media sites. A couple of months ago we re-enlisted the services of downtown Phoenix based eeko studio to design and develop a fully functional website that would feature all of our events. Well, like they did with our logo, landing page, and other branding, the folks at eeko studio knocked it out of the park. Our new site offers an easy way to get information about and RSVP for all of our events. You can read our welcoming statement, learn our story, and find out more about our pastors. You can catch the latest posts on our blog and support the work of our ministry through our “Give” page. We hope you’ll take a few moments to explore all of the beautifully designed pages of our site. We’re excited to offer a world-class web site as we continue to ramp up to our public launch on September 8, 2013!

April 25, 2013

The Importance of Getting to Know Our Neighbors

There’s something that bothers me about seeing neighbors gathering in the streets to celebrate things like the killing or capture of our national enemies. Why does it take tragedy and violence to bring us out of our houses to meet our neighbors through mourning or rejoicing with them? How do we move to a place where we celebrate in the street with our neighbors just because it’s something we practice regularly as a community?

I moved to Phoenix a little less than a year ago, just before starting my work with City Square Church. We looked at a few different houses, but settled on the one we ended up buying because we liked the feel of the neighborhood. It was quiet, yet you could easily walk to a nearby intersection that had various cool restaurants, coffee shops, a gym, and much more. We could take the kids to a nearby park and walk/run on the nearby canal path.

Now, when you move to a new neighborhood, in Phoenix, at the beginning of summer, it’s unlikely you will have much interaction with your neighbors. During our brutally hot summers we tend to stay inside or scurry from one air conditioned place to another.

But when the heat broke, in the fall, we began meeting a lot of our neighbors. We were invited to a few neighborhood barbecues and block parties and found that most of our neighborhood was made-up of families with young children, just like us. Now, when we go on our evening walks with our kids we run into our neighbors. Sometimes we stop and chat for a few minutes, other times we exchange a wave and a hello.

A few months ago our house was broken into and the intruder stole some things from our bedroom. The next day I walked around our block and notified my neighbors, many of whom I had yet to meet, of what had happened. They appreciated knowing about the robbery but I also ended up having more in-depth conversations with them, adding a silver-lining to an unfortunate event. I thought to myself, though, that it shouldn’t take my house getting robbed to get out and get to know my neighbors better.

Recently, I learned that a 2009 Gallup poll found only 12% of Arizonans believe the people in their community care about one another (For this stat and a ton of other good information about Arizona, check out The Arizona We Want 2.0).

In other words, at best, people don’t think their neighbors care about them and, at worst, we don’t think our neighbors trust us and/or we think they hate us.

It’s no secret we have trouble being neighborly, here in Arizona. Suburban sprawl creates cookie-cutter communities with two car garages, high walls and the lack of places for the neighborhood to gather. Freeways and un-friendly streets for bikes and pedestrians discourage walking and biking. All of these things create fewer natural interactions for people to have with one another. In addition, many of our laws promote a self-preservation/no trespassing/I can shoot you if I fear you mentality. We especially fear immigrants and just about anyone who doesn’t look or think like us.

I believe, however, that we can do better than 12% of us who think our neighbors care about us, and we can start by finding out who are neighbors are. In Luke 10:25 a lawyer asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers with “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” But the lawyer isn’t satisfied so he pushes more, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus then goes on to tell the story of the Good Samaritan. During Jesus’ time, Samaritans were considered anything but neighbors as they were seen as unclean and inferior. Yet, Jesus tells a story where those who society considered to be upstanding citizens and righteous religious leaders pass up a man who has been robbed and beaten and is lying in a ditch. But it’s the Samaritan who comes along, helps the man, and turns out to be the hero. In a scandalous reversal it’s the last person that anyone expects who Jesus identifies as the “neighbor” in the story.

It doesn’t matter who we are, we are all called to be good neighbors. It doesn’t matter who our neighbors are, if we don’t get to know them, we’ll let our stereotypes and misconceptions get the best of us.

If our neighbor is everyone and we are called to be good and compassionate neighbors, ourselves, we don’t have to go far to meet them. Your neighbor lives next door to you, sits in the office down the hall, is sleeping on the sidewalk tonight, comes from another country and might look different than anyone you’ve ever met.

Why do we need to get to know our neighbors? Because if we don’t, when people are in trouble, when they are disillusioned, when they are broken, they may have no one else to lean on. When we don’t know our neighbors it’s easy for distrust to take hold, for our fears to get the best of us and see our neighbors as “the other.” But when we know our neighbors fear and mistrust turn to love and compassion, and those are things worth celebrating in the streets.

So what are you waiting for? Go meet your neighbors.

April 10, 2013

Our Limits, and Beyond

Tonight, below the window of my 1st Ave. and Adams apartment I overheard two people shouting at each other. That happens sometime, the (additional) price you pay for living in the heart of downtown, but tonight I heard words that alarmed me: hit, scared, get away, don’t touch me. Now, I’m not the kind of guy who thinks he’s tough enough to step into any situation, but I couldn’t ignore this one so I pulled up the non-emergency police number on my phone and I headed downstairs.

It was ugly. A man and a woman, close to each other and off to one side of the sidewalk, like folk only get when they know they’re being inappropriately intimate or aggressive with each other in public. Their voices were low and angry, escalating into shouting then self-consciously dropping back down into strained, hushed tones. From the street I heard another word that put the whole scene into context for me: drunk. She was drunk. He was drunk. They were clearly drunk.

I’ve worked with enough hard-living folk to know better than to engage people when they’re drunk but I also know that sometimes drawing a private moment of anger out into public can embarrass even drunk folk into deescalation. I asked them if everything was okay.

“Yes, everything’s fine.” Him.

“No, it’s not okay.” Her.

“Do you need me to call the cops?” Me.

“No.” Her.

“Sure.” Him.

“Yeah, go ahead.” Her.

For the moment we were all in agreement. I called the cops and then hung out for about 10 minutes waiting for them to show. He’s feeling pretty smug. She punched him in the face and he’s going to find witnesses. He rides off and she tells me he has her keys and she’s afraid to go home, and by the way, she needs a shot if I’m drinking tonight. I’m not. He comes back. They fight about who’s house it is that he has the keys to. She pays the bills. He buys food. She bought the dog. He pays for it with love. I’m not judging. He rides off again. She asks about nearby bars. I express sympathy for what appears to be a bad night. He comes back and claims not to have her keys anymore. She stomps off toward home. He stays and smugly tells me he’ll wait for the cops. He gets bored, tells me his name and says he’s going home. He rides off. I walk to the corner and can no longer see either of them.

Epic fail.

I stepped out of my house and into other people’s business so I could try to keep a bad situation from getting worse and in the end I accomplished absolutely nothing. They’re both still drunk and angry, only now they’ve presumably gone home to fight rather than doing it where someone my be able to intercede. I feel… awful.

So what do I do? I walk back to my apartment, head swimming with all the ways I’ll intervene more effectively next time (“If you’re scared he’ll come to your house do you have a safe place you could go instead?” “If you think this is all because she’s drunk, do you have a place you can go tonight until you both sleep it off?” The list goes on) and I do the only thing I know to do when I’ve failed. I pray.

Believe me, I’m not the kind of guy who asks God to step in so I don’t have to. I’m not a passive pray-er. I am a roll-my-sleeves-up-and-get-in-the-mess kind of guy but I’ve been doing this long enough to know that more often than I’d care to admit their comes a point where I have to recognize my own inability to effect change in a situation. I hate it, but there it is, none the less. I am infinitely fallible.

If you have ideas about how I could have handled the situation better, I do too. I’d love to hear yours. Also, if you’re in an unhealthy situation in your home and need some support please contact our friends at Sojourner Center ( They’re fantastic and they’re ready to help. But if you’re just like me and you regularly find yourself in situations where you come face to face with your own limitations, know you’re not alone. I’m right there with you, along with every other social worker, nurse, chaplain, paramedic, teacher and anyone else who cares enough to help all the way up to that point where they can’t help anymore. And God is with you too.

It’s a humbling experience, but it’s pretty good company to keep.

February 11, 2013

February Community & Contemplation



Gather with folks for a time of singing and reflection on Sunday February 24th at the historic Icehouse, in downtown Phoenix, at 6 p.m. for our second Community & Contemplation service. Our musicians will lead us in singing “secular” songs with spiritual themes. In-between songs will be extended periods of silence. Participants may choose to pray, meditate or make use of provided art supplies throughout the service. The service is open to the public and free professional child care is provided.

RSVP on Facebook

December 29, 2012

Finding Financial Peace

One of the great disservices Christianity has done itself over they years is to convince the world (and perhaps ourselves) that our primary purpose is to be right, to prove others wrong, and to coerce others into becoming like us.The truth of the matter is that the heart of Christianity is far less coercive and far more compelling than most folk, including Christians, give it credit for.

One of the most compelling messages I find in the Judeo-Christian tradition is the message of liberation. This is perhaps the overriding narrative of the Hebrew Bible, epitomized in the story of Moses leading God’s people out of bondage in Egypt and delivering them to a land of prosperity and potential.

The Christian testament is often understood as shifting foci from earthly liberation to a spiritual liberation from sin and/or eternal judgement, but the truth is, Jesus cares about earthly bodies. While he didn’t lead an army to drive out the occupying forces of Rome as many had hoped he would, Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, and distribute money to the poor. In essence, a significant portion of Jesus’ earthly ministry was dedicated to the liberation of folk from disease and poverty, and he regularly taught his followers to care for lepers, orphans, foreigners, and widows who would otherwise be bound by institutional oppression that would keep them from fully participating in their communities.

Today City Square is working in partnership with community members in Downtown Phoenix to discern what liberation is necessary in our communities. While that discernment is an ongoing process, one thing we’ve heard again and again are stories of folk being bound by debt and/or an inability to get a handle on their personal finances. Mortgages, student loans, credit card debt, bills, and an overall inability to get caught up/get ahead financially are all issues that hang over our community and keep folk from living into their full potential.

If this sounds like you I hope you’ll consider joining us at 6:30pm at Burton Barr Library on Tuesdays starting in January for Financial Peace University*, a class that helped my wife and I begin to get a hold of our own finances and which might be able to do the same for you and your partner, spouse, or family.

This class isn’t about getting you to believe anything different, except maybe that you don’t always have to live with the stress that finances can cause in your life. The cost of materials for the class is $100 which goes entirely to the folk who create the curriculum. City Square isn’t making a dime off of these classes. For us, it’s all about liberation from the things that bind us. You can sign up for the class here or contact me for more information at [email protected]

Regardless of the journey you’re on, if financial peace is a part of it, we hope you’ll consider joining us for this class.

Be well y’all.

*personally, I don’t believe that the financial liberation offered by Jesus and that offered by Financial Peace University are one in the same. While Jesus offered an entirely new way of thinking about economic and social structures, FPU offers sound advice for how to live in the current US economic system by controlling your money rather than allowing it to control you. For further conversation on the economics of Christ let’s grab coffee!